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Smoking Declines in France as Health Minister Shifts Position on Vapor

Smoking Declines in France as Health Minister Shifts Position on Vapor


Smoking Declines in France as Health Minister Shifts Position on Vapor

France has long been depicted as having a love affair with cigarettes. But a report from the government shows the French people moving away from smoking faster than in many other nations, with over a million people quitting smoking in France in 2017 alone.

Soon after the report was released France’s Minister of Health, Agnès Buzyn, tepidly warmed up to vapor, saying that products are “clearly less toxic” than cigarettes, according to French website Linfo.re. Still, she refused to endorse vapor products as tobacco cessation tools. While this isn’t quite a ringing testimonial, it’s at least a step in the right direction.

Worldwide, questions about how best to address smoking rates have sparked an ongoing debate. The trend, however, is clear: smoking is on the decline overall, with France simply another example of a country grappling with how to deal with smoking as a health threat and looking for a way to reduce the harm it produces.  

A new report by the French Department of Public Health shows that an estimated one million people in France quit cigarettes in just the last year. Smoking percentages for 18-to-75 year olds who smoked on a daily basis dropped from 29.4 percent to 26.9 percent throughout 2017. The same report estimated that about 200 people die a day from smoking, or 73,000 people a year.

"This historic decline proves to everyone that it is possible to fight against smoking through coherent and integrated actions," said François Bourdillon, the health department's director general, in the report released Monday, June 4.

The findings came just days before Agnès said that vapor is “clearly less toxic” than tobacco, according to French website Linfo.re. She also said that the government agency is “not opposed” to vapor and that it should be used as a “weaning tool” off of cigarettes. She then went on to acknowledge that everyone’s method of quitting tobacco is different, with some opting for nicotine gums, patches and other nicotine reduction therapies.

"We are promoting anything that can help stop smoking," the minister told Europe1.

The minister did hedge a bit, stating that the government is “not there” when it comes to endorsing vapor as a cessation tool. She explained that we still have to wait for studies to prove it is an effective cessation tool and not dangerous.

As the French government touts its drop in combustible cigarette usage, it’s worth noting that these percentages are still relatively high on a global scale. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control estimated that in 2016 15.5 percent of the population 18 or above smoked. Similarly, in 2016, the United Kingdom reported that their percentage of adult smokers was at about 15.8 percent. Put in this context, France still has a long way to go to catch up with the rest of the world, but one million people quitting in one year is still a positive sign.